One of the reasons watches are so intriguing for enthusiasts is that they uniquely have their foot in multiple worlds. High-end watches can be tools, jewelry, or even art, and while that third category is often up for debate, I think the watch we have here serves as a good example of just how artistic horology can be. This Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon reference 5002P is one of the most complicated watches ever made by Patek Philippe, and I think it’s also one of the best modern examples of a timepiece elevated to the level of art.
The Sky Moon Tourbillon was released in 2001 in two metals, platinum, and yellow gold, with a whopping 12 complications. At the time of its release, it was the most complicated wristwatch Patek Philippe had ever produced. A title the watch held for 12 years until the reference 6002 replaced it. Despite the watch continuing Patek Philippe’s long tradition of making complicated watches, this Sky Moon represents the first of its kind, starting a new tradition later carried on by the reference 6002. The Sky Moon collection has since expanded into multiple beautiful, complicated watches that may be more complex and have more intricate design work, but this first reference will always be special among them, and if I’m being honest, I think this reference is the best looking of the bunch.
As soon as you lay your eyes on this watch, you know it’s extraordinary. This watch has a commanding presence, measuring 42.8mm in diameter and 16.8mm thick, with the large mid-case featuring an intricately engraved Calatrava cross pattern, a minute repeater pusher, and two different crowns. The watch also notably has two dials. The top-side dial is vintage-esque with a creamy off-white coloring and a Calatrava cross guilloché design similar to that found on the mid-case. On the smooth outer track, you’ll find white gold Roman numerals indicating hours as well as red serif numerals for the retrograde date function. At the center, there are four subdials displaying the leap year at twelve, month at three, moon age at six, and the day at nine. Oh, and also this watch also tells the time with beautiful lacquered gold feuille hour and minute hands.
Flip the watch over, and you are greeted with an entirely different aesthetic. The deep blue night sky with golden stars serves as a backdrop for displaying the phase and orbit of the moon, standard time, and around the outer perimeter silvered numerals displaying sidereal time, a time scale based on the Earth’s rotation rate relative to fixed stars. This reverse dial, with its old-world celestial-based complications, is really what sets this watch apart from other complicated timepieces we see so often. It adds a level of romance to the watch and reminds you just how old the craft of watchmaking is.
Inside the timepiece is the in-house caliber RTO 27 QR SID LU CL, and as I stated, it’s one of the most complicated movements Patek has ever put into a wristwatch. The 55 jewel manual winding tourbillon—which humbly remains hidden—is a COSC certified chronometer consisting of a whopping 686 parts. It’s impressively less than 13mm thick and functionally powers 12 complications. It is also notable that the minute repeater in this movement utilizes cathedral gongs, giving it a deeper, richer sound than traditional minute repeaters. Unfortunately, due to the watch having two dials, only a watchmaker will be able to see the marvelously complicated movement, but regardless you can be assured that it is just as beautiful as the rest of the watch.
Versus The Competition
This is not your run-of-the-mill complicated timepiece where one can compare it to each high-end brand’s version of the same watch. This wristwatch is in seriously rarified air both mechanically, visually, and fiscally. The only other watches I could think to compare this timepiece to are the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 and the watch that replaced the 5002, the Patek Philippe 6002.
The Les Cabinotiers is the world’s most complicated wristwatch with 23 complications and an asking price over the 1 million dollar mark. The important differences if one is so fortunate to be choosing between the two are off course, that the Vacheron is more complicated and that the Patek has a much more traditional aesthetic as well as has a more intricately designed finish. The Vacheron is much more modern and has an almost futuristic vibe. Depending on what you’re looking for, this could be a plus or minus.
Another option is the 6002 which is functionally very similar, with a few exceptions. Though the 6002 uses the same Caliber R TO 27 QR SID LU CL it indicates moon phases, not moon age, and uses apertures instead of hands to display the day, month, and leap year. The real difference is visual, with the 6002 case being entirely hand engraved with a gorgeous, intricate pattern. The engraving process takes over 100 hours to do per watch and totally changes the look of the watch. The 6002, however, has a market value of around 6 million dollars, and if, like me, you’d prefer a more subdued look, the extra money is likely not worth it. That said, the 6002 is an exceptional example of high-level horology on all fronts.
This is a very complicated, rare, and expensive timepiece that is among the most exceptional watches on Earth. Likewise, it belongs with a top of the pyramid watch collector. In order to add this watch to your collection, you would need a pretty serious surplus of knowledge, money, and desire. This is not for any casual collector. Hell, I don’t even think it’s for the Clymers or Mayers among us but rather those who taught the Clymers and Mayers what they know. This watch belongs on the wrist of a true horological scholar and thought leader.
When I look at the Patek Philippe 5002P, I don’t just see a fancy watch. I see the hours of careful, intricate hand engraving and finishing and even more hours of engineering genius that went into this watch. I see lifetimes of accumulated skill and knowledge passionately put into a wristwatch. I see a masterpiece.